Lovin’ Daisies

Meadow Daisies“She loves me… she loves me not.” Whichever way the petals fall, one thing is certain. We all love daisies. When other flowers are fading away in late summer, daisies stand long and tall, gracing our landscapes with abundant blossoms. Even those of us who’ve seen them invade our lawn and realized how hard the hardy plants were to get rid of love some kind of daisy, even if we hate those particular (usually hybrid) daisies.

The kinds of flowers commonly called daisies are actually a smaller group than what’s in the daisy or asteracae (aster) family. That large group that counts some 600 species includes sunflowers as well as daisies, cone flowers, and asters. Our personal favorites are the tiny alpine daisies that grow above timber in the highest mountain passes. Here in the southwest, annual African daisies are popular for their varied colors and drought resistance. What’s known as the New England daisy or aster — and this is one of the great things about daisies — actually grows all across the country.

The popular Shasta daisy, a good choice for high altitude, rain-challenged locations, is probably what most people think of when they think daisy. Available in both single and double-petaled varieties, they are very easy to grow. They’ll need to be dug up every three or four years to have their woody centers divided to allow them to continue to produce abundant blooms.

Most common daisies are easily started from seed but you can start them indoors in pots as well. They’ll tolerate poor soils but, like most plants, will do best in well-drained soil with lots of organic matter. Another good idea, epsecially with annual, African varities, is to sow them in pots outdoors, placed where they will mark corners of deck and patios with their brilliant, long-lasting blossoms.

Specialized daisies are popular among florists and those selling cut blossoms at farmer markets. The gerbera daisy, a south African native with tight petals that come in colors ranging from bright orange to pink, is often grown in greenhouses for commercial sale. You’ve probably seen them at your local florist. Why not grow them in your yard?

Don’t be confused by the range of flowers considered daisies that you know as asters. Part of the confusion is geographical. What the English call Michaelmas daisies, those blue or purple, late-blooming flowers that grow in the poorest soils and can take over an entire garden patch if you let them, are known in this country as purple asters. But then, as Shakespeare said about the rose, what’s in a name?

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